– Spoiler Review –
Ezra and his troubled past get the spotlight here, as understanding why Empire Day brings back nothing but bad memories for him sets up some very intriguing plotlines. And just when Ezra wants to disappear while the crew sticks it to the Empire on its most special day, a Rodian from his past on the run from the Empire forces the crew’s hands and suddenly things escalate out of control. And with a cliffhanger so deliciously and angrily placed as this one, “Empire Day” goes down in our history books as well, but it’s for being the best episode of the series yet.
Things start off rather innocuously, with Kanan training Ezra in the Force. On Kanan’s lesson plan for the day, he talks about how Ezra needs to open himself to the living Force because whether he likes it or not, he’s connected to everything around him. In particular, Kanan says Ezra needs to make attachments to those around him, which is a very interesting choice of words. Attachment seemingly was a hot bed of contention for Jedi back during the prequel era, as Anakin’s attachments were used against him, so having Kanan stress their importance continues to show his more unique perspective on Jedi training. He’s arguing complete openness of one’s emotions instead of trying to do away with emotions, which could lead to a stronger sense of trust and understanding between people. Ezra doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to tell everyone about his past and would prefer not to, even if it means not becoming a Jedi, and he goes on to deflect Kanan’s question about why today is just a bad day for him. But Kanan is hiding nearly just as many secrets as Ezra, if not more, so having him teach about openness certainly raises the eyebrows. Their discussion to start the episode might seem light when in fact it’s anything but.
As the team retires to Old Jho’s Pit Stop, they watch a team of TIE pilots search the establishment for a Rodian. Ezra recognizes the one in their wanted poster as Tseebo, but adds this information as something else to hide from the crew. Before the pilots leave, they hassle the Ithorian bar keep Old Jho about not having the Imperial Holonet broadcast airing and it turns out to backfire on them. Just as we’re treated to Alton Kastle’s report on the Empire’s most glorious day (including a shot of a scene from Revenge of the Sith), Gall Trayvis returns to hack the holonet and urges everyone to boycott the celebrations. I’m very interested to know about Trayvis, especially how/where he’s hiding in exile and what other Senators think of his actions. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing him in the flesh by the end of the season.
While the crew looks forward to causing havoc, Ezra’s memories and sighting of Tseebo continues to weigh down on him, and he excuses himself from the festivities. In a great call back to the movie, Spark of Rebellion, we see Ezra back at his hideout, showing that while he’s come so far already, his past is still something very important to him and very well hidden and unknown. As he picks up the keycard to his childhood home, we hear his parents Ephraim and Mira for the very first time. There’s some fun speculation regarding Ephraim being a clone, as he’s voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, best known for voicing EVERY SINGLE CLONE in the The Clone Wars; But his voice here is just different enough that I’m not sold yet, though a clone could’ve changed it to avoid recognition. Either way, his parents were very much against the Empire, as we later learn they used to issue broadcasts out of their secret basement. Being a rebel runs in the family it seems…
The upbeat, jovial take on the Imperial March theme really stood out at the beginning of the parade, as it’s an interesting version for the oft used song and it’s a reminder not everyone thinks the Empire is so bad. Minister Maketha Tua, first seen in “Droids in Distress,” appears at the Empire Day parade to show off Lothal’s ship building facility’s newest addition to the Imperial fleet: the TIE Advanced. It’s a short lived appearance for the recognizable vehicle, as the crew blows it up and seriously disrupts Empire Day. I appreciated the fact that Tua, Kallus, and the Inquisitor interacted here, as Tua is pissed off about the parade being ruined while both Kallus and the Inquisitor remain focused on the escaped Rodian. Having her being around the Inquisitor and not being afraid makes me wonder how much she actually knows about the Pau’an and what his place/mission is.
Ezra leads Kanan and Sabine to his old home (Zeb uses his climbing skills to take a shortcut to the Ghost) to lay low, but he also has a hunch it’s where Tseebo hid. Indeed Tseebo’s hiding in the Bridger’s basement, but his cybernetic implant (like Lobot at Cloud City) and it’s wealth of information are overloading his brain and he’s all over the place. Ezra opens up a bit, revealing Tseebo was friends with his parents before the Empire took them when he was 7, and that he holds some resentment over the Rodian for joining the Empire shortly after. It’s important to note currently the Bridgers were just taken, with no mention of them being dead yet. As Ezra takes a moment alone in the basement, Tseebo not only reveals Empire Day is Ezra’s birthday, but why the Empire is hunting him: the information in his implant includes all sorts of classified Imperial intelligence.
The intelligence includes information on the usage for the disruptors the crew stole in “Droids in Distress” and a five year plan for the outer rim. A five year plan? Why, A New Hope just so happens to be in five in-universe years away…Could this plan be to marshal in the completion of the Death Star being built under Tarkin’s supervision near Geonosis? Or is it something even more sinister than that? Whatever it is, it’s enough to convince Kanan and Sabine they have to smuggle Tseebo off of Lothal. And this is where things, while already picking up, really escalate.
Before you know the crew is breaking through a blockade (where Aresko foolishly stood with his hand out yelling stop), battling Kallus on top their speeding stolen Imperial Troop Transport, boarding the Ghost, and finally being shot at by the Inquisitor (with a badass helmet on) in his special TIE and his TIE fighter support. If that wasn’t enough, Chopper is damaged and Tseebo finally comes to, just in time to reveal he knows what happened to Ezra’s parents. Then boom, “To Be Continued…” flashes across the screen. The action here is swift and well paced, and with so many of these character’s fates being unknown (see: all of them) the stakes are very high and add tension to the proceedings. How will the crew get out of this fine mess? What happened to Ezra’s parents and are they still alive? I’ve not been frustrated and excited by a “To Be Continued…” screen on TV for quite awhile.
Here are a few other things:
- Normally while I watch, I like to grab some screenshots for my reviews. On my first viewing of “Empire Day” I completely got swept up in the episode and didn’t even think about it. It was hard to even do it on the second viewing.
- Alright, alright, don’t get down on my geek cred, but I didn’t immediately associate Empire Day in-universe with being Luke and Leia’s birthday until someone pointed it out on Twitter. Can’t believe I missed it. While we know what Luke was largely up to at this age, fooling around at Tosche station and bullseying womp rats in his T-16, wouldn’t it be nice to get more on what Leia is up to? So I’ll throw this out there, what with all the investigations into Fulcrum’s audio from “Out of Darkness” pointing to Fulcrum being a lady, could it be Leia? I highly doubt it, and would prefer someone new, but she’d certainly be awesome to see in such a clandestine role.
- While I caught the Phase 1 clone trooper helmet behind Old Jho on the bar, someone else pointed out Obi-Wan’s LAAT/i gunship of choice the Crumb Bomber adorns the entrance to Old Jho’s. Blink and you’ll miss it.
- Old Jho throwing the pilot’s “It’s the law” line back at him when the pilot requests the broadcast to be shut off was funny.
- The disk Ezra finds in his parent’s basement looks very familiar to me, as I chased a droid named 8t88 for several hours to get back one he stole from me. What am I talking about? Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II opens with Katarn chasing after 8t88 who has stolen his father’s holo-disk, the same model of which Ezra finds in his basement. Pretty cool usage! Here’s a comparison picture.
- Sabine, normally deflecting Ezra’s attempts to charm her, shows she’s beginning to be interested thanks to a great opening shot of her looking out at Kanan and Ezra training.
- Kanan pretending to be drunk reminds me a lot of his thoughts about his early years after Order 66 described in A New Dawn.
The in-universe Empire Day has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people; But for Star Wars Rebels, the feelings about “Empire Day” should be mostly unanimous praise, as it combines several elements into a very engaging and quickly escalating roller coaster. I got so wrapped up in, and so used to Rebels use of one-off single episodes, I was caught completely unawares by the cliffhanger ending. The comfy feeling our crew has had the luxury of feeling roaming Lothal will be sure to change after the events in next week’s “Gathering Forces.”
+ Hints of Ezra’s past
STAR WARS REBELS REVIEWS:
Season One: Spark of Rebellion | Ep. 2: “Droids In Distress” | Ep.3: “Fighter Flight” | Ep.4: “Rise of the Old Masters” | Ep.5: “Breaking Ranks” | Ep.6: “Out of Darkness” | Ep.8: “Gathering Forces” | Ep.9: “Path of the Jedi” | Ep.10: “Idiot’s Array” | Ep.11: “Vision of Hope” | Ep.12: “Call to Action” | Ep.13: “Rebel Resolve” | Ep.14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”
Season Two: The Siege of Lothal | Ep. 2: “The Lost Commanders” | Ep. 3: “Relics of the Old Republic” | Ep. 4: “Always Two There Are” | Ep. 5: “Brothers of the Broken Horn” | Ep. 6: “Wings of the Master” | Ep. 7: “Blood Sisters” | Ep. 8: “Stealth Strike” | Ep. 9: “The Future of the Force” | Ep. 10: “Legacy” | Ep. 11: “A Princess on Lothal” | Ep. 12: “The Protector of Concord Dawn” | Ep. 13: “Legends of the Lasat” | Ep. 14: “The Call” | Ep. 15: “Homecoming” | Ep. 16: “The Honorable Ones” | Ep. 17: “Shroud of Darkness” | Ep. 18: “The Forgotten Droid” | Ep. 19: “The Mystery of Chopper Base” | Ep. 20: “Twilight of the Apprentice“